President Joe Biden claimed in a speech Tuesday his administration was “ready” for the Afghan government to fall almost immediately to the Taliban as the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan.
Biden had previously claimed that it was not “inevitable” that the Taliban would defeat the Afghan National Army and conquer Kabul. Tuesday, he claimed that nobody expected Kabul to fall as fast as it did, but that his administration had a contingency in place that was successfully executed.
“The assumption was that more than 300,000 Afghan national security forces, that we had trained over the past two decades and equipped, would be a strong adversary in their civil war with the Taliban,” Biden said. “That assumption, that the Afghan government would be able to hold on for a period of time beyond military drawdown, turned out not to be accurate. But, I still instructed our national security team to prepare for every eventuality; even that one.”
The United States was forced to coordinate with the Taliban to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul once the Afghan National Army capitulated. A security lapse at the airport resulted in a successful suicide bombing attack by ISIS-K, which killed nearly 200 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members, in addition to wounding hundreds of more civilians.
“So we were ready, when the Afghan security forces, after two decades of fighting for their country and losing thousands of their own, did not hold on as long as anyone expected,” Biden said. “We were ready when they, and the people of Afghanistan, watched their own government collapse, and their president flee amid the corruption and malfeasance. Handing over the country to their enemy the Taliban, and significantly increasing the risk to U.S. personnel and their allies.”
“This is the way the mission was designed. It was designed to operate under severe stress and attack, and that’s what it did.”
Biden’s speech in defense of the administration’s withdrawal followed admissions Monday from both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie that the United States left behind at least 100 citizens who wanted to be evacuated from the country but were unable to reach the airport in time to get out.